Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The 12th.General Election 2008

Let’s vote wisely for credible candidates

The whole nation is gearing up for the 12th.General Elections which is expected to be held in the very near future. It is another milestone in the history of our nation which is at the crossroads moving into the second half century since its birth. Malaysians of all ethnicity and all walks of life will go to the polls to decide the destiny of the nation which they have all made their home. It is a rare occasion when all citizens, regardless of race, creed, social standing and political affiliation are made to feel equal in exercising their constitutional rights.

Over the last 50 years under the Barisan Nasional (BN) rule the nation had made great strides, from a underdeveloped agricultural country we have become a prosperous industrialized nation and at the brink of becoming a developed nation by 2020.Our success story is our pride and an example for others to ape. The credit goes to our leaders, for their foresight and wisdom and the relentless work of the people. We have never experienced the rule by any party other than the BN.

Although we have developed tremendously, like in any country, we have our share of problems and setbacks as well. The country is now plagued with problems of racial and religious polarization, inflation, declining standards of education, high crime rate, immigrant problems, sluggish civil service and corruption at high places.

The Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Agency and police are subservient to the executive. The independence of the judiciary has been seriously undermined and the Lingam Tape scandal has cast serious doubts on its credibility as the custodian of justice. It appears to be to be tainted and chaotic at the highest level. Even parliament is not bold to debate issues that are of grave interest to the public, instead it has become a mere rubber stamp of the ruling party.

It is with this scenario of an illustrious past and a gloomy present that Malaysians are going to the polls that will set the direction to chart the future. They have to make the all important decision between continuity or change. The other option that would be more practical is continuity but without a 2/3 majority. In all previous elections the people opted for continuity as they perceived that to be the means of stability, peace and prosperity.

Malaysians today are more educated and better informed than before. They are exposed more to international politics, such as the on-going election campaign in the US, and better appreciate the working of democracy. As such their demands and expectations from the government too have increased tremendously and will continue to do so in the years to come. They are beginning to realize that there should be better checks and balances as absolute power if unchecked will corrupt even the most righteous.

The political maturity of Malaysians should not be underestimated and their demands for a transparency, accountability and fairness from the government they elect should not be over-looked.Our politicians must understand these positive changes that are taking place in the general populace and political parties must strive to offer better, more capable and credible candidates to meet these new challenges posed by a more literate and demanding electorate.

On the other hand the time has come for the people to show their wisdom in voting only for those candidates with good tract record, honesty, integrity and good moral values and reject those who thrive on race politics and those who are corrupt and who do not have the welfare of the people at heart. They must use the election to send a clear and strong message to the leaders of political parties that they are not willing to compromise these qualities of their wakil rakyat for anything whatsoever.

Malaysians must show their maturity by rising up to reject money politics. Those who succumb to bribery and vote buying are committing greater crime than those who offer them. They should not allow greed and selfishness and fall prey to such unscrupulous tactics but rather place the national interests above theirs.

The ongoing US election campaign is an eye opener for all of us. It is refreshing to see the potential candidates gracefully leaving the race willingly and in a very civil manner with praise for their challengers. The Democratic battle between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama is being conducted in such an open, civil and truly democratic manner that should be the envy of the rest of the world.

It is very gratifying to see the maturity of the political candidates and the American voters. Genuine issues like healthcare, Iraq war, poverty, inflation, tax and poverty are the deciding factors, not race or the party, in choosing their president. If Obama were to become the President, it would be historic day for America, as a member of a once enslaved colored community can rise up to become the most powerful man in the world. That speaks volume for the democracy of their nation.

We are quick to criticize the US for its unfair policies and its alleged racism, but how does our system of guided democracy measure up to that in the US? We are still voting based on race and religion. Can a non-Malay citizen ever become the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister or even a Menteri Besar of a state?

Our politicians, especially the veterans and those riddled with all types of scandals refuse to step down gracefully even if not wanted anymore. They cling onto power by all means available to them. Money politics is still rampant and millions of ringgit are ditched out and all sorts of development projects launched and goodies promised at the last minute in an attempt to fish for votes. If this is not institutionalized bribery then what is it? It is sad that many voters are still swayed by these tactics.

The future of the nation is in our hands as we are given the opportunity to decide its destiny. This time around let us vote based on the merits of the candidate rather than the party that he/she represents. Let’s look at his/her merits – honest, straight, high integrity and above all dedicated to champion our causes effectively regardless of race or religion. We must reject politicians who are corrupt and out to use their positions to enrich themselves and their families and cronies.

Let us vote to send the best to parliament where issues confronting the nation can be debated in a civil and democratic way without fear or prejudice. Let us vote to make parliament the truly highest policy making body in the country, submitting to none other than the wishes of the rakyat alone.

As we are deliberating whether to vote for continuity or change, the following words of Barack Obama would be of some help Change is hard. Change is always met by resistance from the status quo. The real gamble is to have the same old folks doing the same old things over and over and over again and somehow expect a different result,"

We cannot and should not expect a better outcome with the same old system over and over again. To cure the ills we have today in our country we must strive to effect a change. To bring about that change may not be that easy, it may be a monumental task, but there must be a beginning for all good things to happen, why shouldn’t it be now. It is now in our hands to make that change; do we have the will and courage to do so?

Dr.Chris Anthony

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